If you like exploring by train, the Harz Railway, based in the Harz Mountain region, one of Germany’s most picturesque regions, is a must do.
The Harzer Schmalspur Bahnen, otherwise known as the Harz Railway, is a narrow gauge railway which runs through stunning scenery, unspoilt medieval towns, forests and snow-capped mountains in eastern Germany. Along the way, you can visit the medieval towns of Quedlinburg and Goslar, both UNESCO world heritage sites that have remained unchanged for centuries.
Its three inter-connnecting lines cover over 140 kilometres and serve 48 stations. As Europe’s longest railway network with daily steam operation, the Harz Railway has 25 working engines which make up one of the largest fleet of passenger steam locomotives in the world. Harz Railway is not like many other “heritage” railways: it runs a professional, timetabled service right through the year which carries over 1.1 million passengers from tourists, school children, commuters and hikers who use it as their transport of choice.
The railway runs efficiently and immaculately. Trains are buffed to a high shine, stations are spick-and-span, ticket offices reliably open and trains are on time. It owes its longevity in part to being based in communist East Germany which did not modernise its railway network.
The Harzquerbahn, Selketalbahn and Brockenbahn lines, which today combine to create the Harz Railway, were founded by between 1886 and 1897 in a region of Germany famous for mining, agriculture and tourism. After the Second World War, the Harz Railway assumed a vital role in the security of the entire Soviet bloc, transporting supplies and troops to the top of Brocken mountain. This was home to one of the main Russian listening posts which monitored Western Europe. And when the border fence was removed in 1989, The Harz Railway remained a perfectly preserved slice of history.
A particular Harz Railway must do is to take a ride on The Brocken Line, where you can enjoy one of the most thrilling steam rides in the world. Travel by train to the snow capped peak of Brocken mountain, which at 1,142 metres is the highest peak in northern Germany. This one hour and 40 minute journey takes you through thick forest, stopping on the way at the country station of Drei Annen Hohne for the train to take on more water before tackling the final ascent to the peak of the mountain. You can also change trains at Drei Annen Hohne and head off along the beautiful Selke Valley line to the medieval, World Heritage Site, town of Quedlinburg. With over 1,300 half-timbered houses, it is a wonderful place to explore and from here you can pick up high speed trains to Berlin or Hanover for international travel.
There are several expert rail tour companies who offer excellent organised tours of the region. Here’s some ideas to get you started – and our experienced, friendly travel consultants here at Ultimate Destinations will be delighted to help you plan your own trip.
Great Rail Journeys run three tours which take in the Harz Railway:
The Harz Mountain 2017 tour visits Cologne, Wernigerode, Goslar,The Brocken Railway, Wernigerode Castle, and Quedlinburg. Prices start at £1,225 pp for 7 nights.
The Harz Mountains & Rhine Gorge is a 10 day tour with prices starting at £1,395 pp. The itinerary includes visits to Cologne, Goslar, Quedlinburg, Brocken Railway, Rhine Gorge, Assmannshausen and Heidelberg.
Great Rail Journey’s Harz Mountains Christmas Markets 2016 Tour visits three Chrismas markets, two UNESO-listed Old Towns and includes an exhilarating train ride on the Brocken Railway. Prices start at £775 pp for 6 days.
Rail Discoveries runs The Harz Mountain Tour which includes visits to Braunlage, Goslar, The Brocken Railway and The Quedlinburg and Selketal Railway. Prices start at £875 pp for a 7 day break.
For more details, contact Ultimate Destinations on 01923 284148 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.